Category Archive: Featured Blog

  1. The Post-Pandemic Church

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    John Stonestreet – Restaurants, theaters, sports teams, and theme parks are scrambling to figure out if and how they can get people back to business. At the same time, and far more important for many of us, churches are trying to figure out how to reopen, too.

    Not only are such plans complicated by official regulations and recommendations that differ from state to state and even county to county, but different theologies and worship styles matter as well. More sacramental churches that emphasize participatory worship and weekly communion face certain challenges, and massive congregations with huge crowds face others. Some congregations consist of a high number of “at-risk” members due to age or other factors. Some don’t.

    After navigating all of these challenges, it’s still not clear just how many people will be willing to show up. And, all of this is being navigated in the context of differing opinions. Just about every church is made up of some members who are fearful, others who are convinced that the threat of Covid-19 was overblown, and others somewhere in-between. Everyone has opinions, and some think theirs are matters of orthodoxy.

    All of this means, according to Baylor historian Philip Jenkins, people in the future will think about church in terms of “BC…Before Coronavirus,” and after.

    The key factor in Jenkin’s fascinating analysis is what we might call “pre-existing conditions.” In other words, in many ways, the coronavirus hasn’t so much created problems for the Church as it has revealed and accelerated them. One particular “pre-existing condition” that Jenkins believes will be accelerated by this crisis is secularization, especially in the United States.

    To be clear, “secularization” is not the same as atheism or even “a decline or destruction of faith.” Rather, as Jenkins writes, it’s “a decline of religious institutions, and a decisive shift in religious practice to individual and privatized forms.” In other words, secularization takes personal faith and makes it private, often by making us more and more religiously unaffiliated.

    So, Jenkins thinks it is quite possible that “the U.S. in the 2020s [will] witness a rapid secular trend comparable to Western Europe in the 1960s,” in which church attendance declines and religious conviction is seen as less appropriate for the public square.

    “Historically,” writes Jenkins, “pandemics and diseases have often played a major role in shaping religion, in undermining older religious establishments,” and we live in a time where institutions are already weak. Even if the coronavirus sparks a revival in personal piety or privatized faith, Jenkins suggests that institutions will be weakened, not strengthened.

    Part of the challenge is, of course, financial. That alone, Jenkins predicts, will lead to “a new age of church closures and mergers.” A recent Washington Post article described the severe financial effects of this pandemic already felt by churches.

    Churches that are able to weather the economic storm face the very real possibility that people will prefer watching services online instead of being physically present. It’s a poor substitute for the real thing, but our culture’s veneration of personal choice plus performance-driven church services that were already largely experienced on screens could prove a deadly combination to Sunday morning church attendance.

    Another way to say this is, for many Christians, church was already considered “non-essential.” That official label, though given for purposes of efficiency and categorization, should concern anyone who thinks of the Christian faith as the truth.

    Jenkins’ predictions, he admits, are controversial. As historian Kyle Harper reminded Rod Dreher, the third century “Plague of Cyprian” weakened Roman institutions and helped paved the way for the triumph of Christianity. Another plague in the sixth century indirectly lead to the Christianizing of Britain. This virus is changing all kinds of different aspects of culture, besides the Church. So, it remains to be seen just what might come of all this.

    More importantly, there are other “preexisting conditions” that pre-date late-modern Western culture. For example, Paul warned Timothy of persecution and tribulation, and that some would “fall away” from the faith during those times. Yet, the most important pre-existing condition is the resurrected Christ who promised the gates of Hell could not prevail against His Church.

    From that solid foundation we can best think about this cultural moment and what the future will hold, but we mustn’t assume that life After Coronavirus will be the same as life before it, especially for the Church.

  2. What Should You Be Focused On During A Crisis?

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    Focus is essential in times of crisis. I met with an executive coach and asked one question, “What should I, as a ministry CEO, be focused on in the middle of this crisis?” 

    Based on our conversation here are a few points of focus for every leader to consider in the uncertain landscape we are navigating right now.

    TRUST GOD TO GUIDE YOU

    There is no better guide in a crisis than God. His ways are higher than our ways. His word always accomplishes what He sends it out to do (read Isaiah 55). I called a very effective business leader who has been heavily impacted by COVID-19 just to encourage him. He spent the whole time sharing with me what God was teaching him through scripture, prayer, and being faithful. I left the conversation with the profound understanding that this leader trusted God to guide. Let’s do the same.

    KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES

    In crisis, Leaders tend to double down on their strengths while avoiding dealing in areas of weakness. This is a natural thing to do. Leaders need to be honest about this dynamic and surround themselves with people who can provide a wholistic response to the crisis.

    RE-TRAIN YOUR CORE TEAM

    Keeping a high-quality team together through the crisis and beyond is key to surviving a storm and rebuilding afterwards. Keep this in mind when working through deep cuts to save money and guard cash. Consider ways that there can be shared sacrifices through the crisis and shared rewards in the rebuilding following.

    GET A HANDLE ON CASH AND SPENDING

    Be sure to know how much cash you have to work with. At the same time, get a handle on the spend rate of the business.  Knowing these two things, cash & spend, are critical in developing a crisis economic model. Frequently update the cash and spend model to help maximize the fiscal staying power in a prolonged crisis.

    SET CLEAR PRIORITIES ON CUTS

    Take time to think through what cuts need to be when and in what priority. The intentionality of this planning helps provide a basis for healthy decision making and communication for everyone involved.

    REVISIT THE STRATEGIC PLAN

    It is a good discipline to look at the current strategic plan in light of the crisis and ask a few questions:

    • What should we hold off and not do right now?
    • What parts of the plan require mitigation because of the pandemic impacts?
    • Is there any part of the plan that should be accelerated?
    • What is the increase and focus of communication as a result of the pandemic?

    KEEP THE BOARD CLOSE

    Resist the temptation to handle too much on your own. This is a time to draw the Board of Directors closer, while keeping good governance boundaries in place. Remember that Boards really do want the ministry to be effective for the long haul.

    Leadership in crisis requires disciplined focus on the right things that only you, as a leader, can help focus on. Lead with peace and a quiet confidence because of who God is. He will give you the capacity to walk through.

    Ed McDowell is the CEO of Warm Beach Camp. He has extensive experience in overseeing and directing ministry organizations, including stewardship development, personnel and organizational management.

  3. Truth, Love and Stones Of Remembrance

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    John Stonestreet, with David Carlson – “Remember the calamity of the Great Tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.” Those are the words inscribed on what are appropriately called “Tsunami stones,” markers left by previous generations in Japan that warn future generations of difficult lessons learned.

    After decades with no tsunamis, especially given new technologies such as better seawalls and flood-proof construction, these kinds of warnings were increasingly seen more as relics from the past than wisdom from the past. They became easier to ignore and, as a result, in 2011, many perished.

    The villagers of Aneyoshi, however, heeded the instructions their forebears placed on a tsunami stone in the 1930s, and they moved their village to higher ground. They not only survived the 2011 tsunami, but the one in 1960 as well.

    When I learned about these stones recently from a friend, I immediately thought of a parable by G. K. Chesterton about those committed always to reform:

    “… let us say, for the sake of simplicity, (there’s) a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.’”

    In other words, we should never remove a fence until we know why it was put up in the first place.

    There’s no doubt we live in a culture that’s quite committed to clearing away all kinds of moral fences in all areas of culture, often replacing them with new fences in new places. What used to be unthinkable is now unquestionable. What used to be unquestionable is now thought of as quaint, puritanical, and in some cases, oppressive and evil. What used to belong to families now belongs to the state. The guilty are now victims; the good guys now the bad guys; the essential now non-essential.

    Even in the Church today, perhaps especially in the Church, there’s a great temptation to move fences, to lower or remove moral standards in a well-intentioned, but often misguided, attempt to be “welcoming.” Almost always, these moves are made in the name of “love,” as if the key missional strategy of the Church is to remove any and all barriers to the Gospel, including any that are inherent and essential to the Gospel itself.

    Often the tsunami stones of moral truth, which the Church has embraced and taught faithfully for 2,000 years, are seen as obstacles to progress. The first and greatest commandment to “love God,” at least as we’ve long understood it, seems to be in conflict with the second one of “loving neighbor.” Truth and love are increasingly seen as incompatible in the fog of secularism and moral relativism. Believing the truth about human sexuality, which went unquestioned in Christian history until yesterday, is considered unloving. Speaking that truth? Well, that’s downright cruel.

    This, of course, gets it exactly backwards. What’s cruel, if moral realities do exist and if we live in a world designed and not accidental, is to remove fences and ignore stones. It’s cruel to tell someone who’s not okay that they are. It is not only possible to be loving and to tell the truth, it is in fact, impossible to be loving without the truth. Learning to hold truth and love together, especially in a culture committed to their divorce, is now a key task of the Church.

    In a wonderful scene near the beginning of C. S. Lewis’s “The Silver Chair,” Aslan is preparing a young Jill Pole for a rescue mission in Narnia. His instructions are clear, but his instructions about his instructions, even more clear:

    “…first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. . . And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind… Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.”

    If this reminds you of God’s instructions to Israel in Deuteronomy, it should. Most of the Bible is about remembering. There is no way to live out what God has taught us and called us to, no way to love God or neighbor, without remembering.

  4. The Seamless Life

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    John Stonestreet – What do an M&M factory in Virginia, a boardroom on Madison Avenue, the slave ship of John Newton, a U2 concert, and a cattle auction in Colorado have in common? Well, of course, each one is part of the “every square inch” over which Christ claims sovereignty, but each is also a subject of reflection in a tremendous new book by one of the wise and trusted sages in my life, Dr. Steven Garber.

    His new book, “The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love & Learning, Worship & Work,“ is now yet another piece of Steve’s writing to mentor and challenge my thinking. His first book, “The Fabric of Faithfulness” is an essential resource for anyone involved in education as a Christian. And even if you are not, his description of the Christian worldview in that book is easily among the best I know of.

    This soft-spoken Regent College professor will tell you that his life and writing and thinking and leading have all been part of his exploration of what it means to live all life under Christ’s lordship; all of it, even in the most ordinary of places and relationships and professions.

    In “The Seamless Life,” Garber explores how to live a life that is connected, not disconnected. Throughout the book Steve weaves in and out of an amazing array of illustrations—of people he’s met, both in person and in history, of movies and plays and songs and works of art, of honest cowboys and prayerful candy executives. And each short chapter begins with a photograph, most of them taken by Steve’s own hand, of the places or people he’s writing about.

    In one of my favorite chapters, Steve shares memories of the grandparents he spent his summers with as a boy in Cortez, Colorado. He knew they took their Scottish Presbyterian faith quite seriously by witnessing and participating in their nightly liturgy of kneeling together for prayer. But, when Steve witnessed an auctioneer asking his grandfather the market price of a particular cow, and taking him at his word without hesitation, Steve knew his grandfather lived a Seamless Life, in which being a cattleman was fully integrated with being a Christian man.

    The book’s diverse and beautiful collage of insights, with its intellectually and theological rich devotional passages, are united by a single idea: Our work, in whatever corner of the world God has placed us, has a sacred quality. What we do for the good of our city or our company or our family or our neighbor is a tangible and real part of God’s project of making all things new. As the title of Steve’s book suggests, the transition from worship to work should be seamless.

    Of course, we face incredible challenges to this task on this side of the garden. Our world is broken, and it’s hard to live out the “already” of the Gospel bombarded and sometimes even crushed by the “not yet” of the Fall. And that’s where Steve introduces one of his favorite words, one he uses so often his students sometimes make fun of him for it: “proximate.”

    The dictionary defines proximate as that which is “closest in relationship,” or “immediate.” What Steve means by proximate is though we can’t fix the whole world by ourselves, that’s okay. We’re not called to do everything, certainly not those things that only God can do. But, we are called, as Christ modeled in His earthly ministry, to do “something that is right and good and true and just” here and now, where we’ve been placed; to help the people within our reach, to feed the hungry within our sight, to speak life to whomever we happen to meet at the well, and sometimes just to haul in a netful of fish and give God the glory.

    In other words, we’re called to do the things we can do, not the things we can’t.

    As Steve observes, “None of us can care for everything everywhere. So, we choose to care about something somewhere.” And, as the chapters progress, dealing with great works of literature and mundane parts of life and the world, it becomes clear that this caring is sacred. It is, in fact, the essence of a seamless life: to “ora et labora,” or “pray and work” whether our jobs are “agricultural or academic, whether we are plumbers or carpenters, whether our labor is the law or the marketplace, whether our days take us into hospitals or schools.

    Steve’s book is available here:

  5. A Christian View Of Suffering

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    John Stonestreet – In the whirlwind of moral balancing as the globe reacts to Coronavirus, we face pressing questions, from if and how to triage patients in the face of limited medical supplies, to how long we ought hobble the economy to curb the spread of the disease.

    These immediate questions are essential, but there are others, too: eternal and existential questions endemic to our humanity that tend to emerge in times like these. Why are we suffering? How can we deal with suffering? What does suffering mean?

    At this time, as the world deals with the spread of the Coronavirus, Christians have an opportunity to share one of our faith’s most unique pillars: Suffering is shocking, but it’s meaningful. Suffering is viewed quite differently within other religions, and it’s important to know that difference since every religion and every worldview must explain the world as it is.

    A fundamental premise of Buddhism, for example, is that life is suffering. As creatures of desire, we attach ourselves and tend to cling to things such as stuff, health, youth, love, and even life itself. Thus, in Buddhism, we are only delivered from suffering by ridding ourselves of the attachments of our desire.

    Not only does such a view deny any real distinction between what’s good and what’s bad—such as health and sickness, love and loneliness, or even life and death—it necessarily denies two things Christianity affirms: The goodness of creation and the possibility that the creation will be, as St. Paul put it, set free from corruption.

    While many Westerners play around with a sort of pop-Buddhism, the secular view of suffering is far more common here. In this view, suffering is real, and we certainly don’t like it, but we don’t really have the worldview foundation to make sense of it. Suffering interrupts our pleasure and happiness, but in a world without purpose or design, we can’t really say that’s wrong or bad or that it shouldn’t be.

    We believe, as those with the most resources in human history to avoid sickness and disaster and certain sufferings, that we somehow have a right not to suffer or, for that matter, to feel dissatisfaction or distress of any kind. But why would that be so, if the world is, as Richard Dawkins once put it, a place of “blind, pitiless indifference” and we are, as he also put it, merely “dancing to our DNA”?

    As Dr. John Lennox pointed out on a recent BreakPoint Podcast, suffering is utterly meaningless for a true atheist. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just there.

    What about Christianity? Unlike Buddhism, Christianity doesn’t deny the objective goodness of the world, the objective nature of our suffering, nor the objective potential of restoration. St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, called death “the last enemy,” which will be destroyed at Christ’s return.

    The author of Hebrews called the fear of death the means by which Satan enslaves men. And, most of all, Jesus seemed to identify with human suffering as something He literally felt in His guts. He entered the suffering of others, such as the mourning sisters of Lazarus in John 11, and He prayed to avoid suffering Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    The Bible is clear, as is the example of Jesus, that suffering is bad and avoiding it isn’t possible. At the same time, suffering is not seen as meaningless (unlike in secularism). On both the personal and cosmic levels, suffering points to the realities of higher truths and greater goods but is ultimately not the story of creation.

    The One through whom all things were made drank from the same cup of suffering and death as all of us. The author of Hebrews says that He “tasted death for everyone.” And yet, rising from the grave three days later, Christ shows us that while suffering and death are real, they do not have the last word.

    As John Lennox writes in his marvelous new book “Where Is God in a Coronavirus World?” a Christian “is not a person who has solved the problem of suffering, but one who has come to love and trust the God who has suffered for them.” Christianity teaches neither resignation to suffering nor detachment from the world. Christianity neither denies the realities of suffering nor gives it more than its due. And so, Christianity alone offers a basis for hope, a true and firm “anchor for the soul.”

  6. Europe, Shaking Paradise

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    We are delighted to announce the Annual CBMC Europe 2020 Conference will be held in Jerusalem, Israel during the days of February 5-9. It promises to be a very special event and an incredible opportunity for you to invite a colleague or friend.  There will be time for worship, silence, reflection and meeting God. Our speakers will be sharing about business God’s way and offer workshops about being a Christian business person in the marketplace. Join us for an opportunity to meet with Messianic Jewish business people, European business friends and hear from inspiring speakers from Israel and Europe. For more details and to register, click here 

  7. Asia-Pacific, Ambassadors of Transformation

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    The 22nd Asia-Pacific Convention (held during the days of November 21-23) is geared to empower Christians in the workplace to be salt and light through their life and testimony in the marketplace. Becoming an Ambassador in your Workplace is the calling from Jesus to each of us found in Matthew 5:13-16.  The convention is hosted at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. You will receive: (in bullet form)  CBMC Leadership Training, Become a courageous ambassador in your marketplace; Build networks among CBMC Asia-Pacific Countries; Strengthen your CBMC Team.  For more details and to register, click here

  8. Africa, Be The Light

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    The All-Africa CBMC Convention (held during the days of October 17-19) is geared to empower Christians in the workplace to share their testimony and deal with questions that challenge their faith. As society becomes more secular, Christians in the marketplace are finding it a greater challenge to share their faith and determine what it means to do business in a manner that reflects their Christian faith. Join us as we focus on how to “BE THE LIGHT – Mathew 5:16” in our workplace. The convention is hosted at the Lukenya Getaway Lodge, in Nairobi, Kenya. For more details and to register, click here.

  9. As Notre Dame Burned, What Exactly Were We Mourning?

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    John Stonestreet – I’ve learned a lot from Glenn Sunshine, a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University. Glenn not only gets history, he also really gets worldview and, even better, how worldview and history are related.

    On Monday night, as I was trying to make sense of the tragedy of the burning of the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, I learned again from Dr. Sunshine. Part of my sadness was that I’ve never visited this wonder of the world, where Henry VI, King of England, was also crowned King of France in 1431, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor in 1804, and Joan of Arc was beatified in 1909. But there was more to my sadness, and the sadness of so many who, like me, were mourning the potential loss of a place they’ve never seen.

    Glenn’s comments, posted on Facebook, are worth quoting:

    I am a historian. I revere the past. Artefacts that allow us to touch the centuries touch a deep place in my heart. Having lived in Paris, I feel a personal connection to Notre Dame: Not only is it an 850-year-old artifact full of beauty but it is also the site of some very happy memories for me with students and especially with my family. My wife nursed our firstborn in Notre Dame. I have been in shock and mourning all day over the fire. And yet … I have also been thinking about C.S. Lewis’s words from “The Weight of Glory:” “You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.” My reason tells me he is right, but my emotions don’t agree. To take it a step further, if the thing that gives human life value is the Image of God, if we are really the crown of God’s creation, isn’t human life more important than the ancient artefacts that I revere? Why then do I get more upset at the loss of things whose longevity is “to ours as the life of a gnat” than I am at the dehumanization of people made in God’s image, at abuse and murder? As horrified as I am by those things, why do I feel the loss of ancient artefacts more? I don’t have a good answer, and I’m not looking for one, but pondering the significance of the fire at Notre Dame has gotten me thinking about these questions.

    I think we do well to ponder these questions. I remember, after a fire ravaged the signature building of a college where I once worked, hearing the wise words of our President Bill Brown: “We didn’t lose anything important.” He meant, of course, no human lives were lost. Bill went on to lead an incredible recovery and renovation project, and the college went on.

    I think Bill’s words were spot on in the context of that fire, but I also sense with Glenn Sunshine that, though the loss of lives would have been infinitely more tragic, we rightly mourn what we witnessed this week in Paris.

    We rightly mourn the loss of that kind of beauty. Though, as I understand, many of the priceless works of art housed in Notre Dame are safe, many others are lost. Of course, God, in His grace, hasn’t ceased to endow His image bearers with creativity and skill. Thankfully, we can expect others to come along whom He has called to communicate truth and goodness with beauty.

    But we must also know that not every culture is capable of producing art that captures the imagination in that kind of transcendent way. Today, our collective imaginations are far too often captive to things temporal, meaningless, and even obscene. That says a lot about the kind of culture we’ve created.

    We also rightly mourn the loss of history, especially in this age of what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.” Cultural memory is lost at our own peril and, whenever it is, humans are tempted by a moral Darwinism, confident that our new technologies, leisure, and distractions will deliver the good life. They will not.

    Finally, many of us mourn, rightly, the loss of faith and transcendence this fire seems to represent. Over a century ago, Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed cathedrals to be nothing more than the sepulchers of God. Of course, God is not dead in any ontological sense, but He is long forgotten in so many places where people were once inspired to build edifices for His worship, places like Notre Dame.

    So as we mourn, let’s pray that God, in His grace, would haunt us with these questions, and through them would bring revival, renewal, and even new beauty from the ashes of Notre Dame.

  10. Genocide In Nigeria – Christians Die, Media Mum

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    John Stonestreet –

    Over the past week, Senior Colson Fellow Glenn Sunshine has taken to Facebook to do something that much of the mainstream media—to its discredit—has neglected to do: alerting people to what is happening to Christians in places like Nigeria.

    The population of Nigeria is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. That religious split largely follows geographic lines: The northern part of the country is predominantly Muslim, the eastern and southern parts of the country heavily Christian.

    The “Middle Belt” is, as you probably guessed, ethnically and religiously diverse. In this part of the country, Christians have been on the receiving end of a campaign that Open Doors calls “religious cleansing,” that is, an attempt “to eradicate Christianity” from the region.

    One of the most notorious Islamist groups in the world, Boko Haram, is responsible for killing thousands of Christians and displacing countless more in northern Nigeria. But Boko Haram isn’t the only group targeting Christians there.

    In late June, Christian leaders claimed that “over 6,000 persons—mostly children, women and the aged—have been maimed and killed in night raids by armed Fulani herdsmen.” The Fulani are an ethnic group that are overwhelmingly Muslim, and for the record, their raids are not always at night.

    In their statement, Nigerian Christian leaders also complained about the “continuous abduction of under-aged Christian girls by Muslim youths…” These girls “are forcefully converted to Islam and taken in for marriage without the consent of their parents.”

    While Open Doors calls what is happening in the Middle Belt “religious cleansing,” Nigerian Christian leaders have called it genocide, and not without good reason. Under the International Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, genocide consists of action intended to destroy in whole or in part, “a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.” The actions can include “killing members of the group,” “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group,” and “forcibly transferring children of the group to another group,” among other things.

    All three of these things are happening in Nigeria right now.

    Where is the Nigerian government in all of this? At best, nowhere to be found. Officials are downplaying, if not outright denying, any religious dimension of what’s happening. Instead, they’re calling this a conflict over resources, in this case, over land. This denial conveniently glosses over the one-sided nature of the violence in the region: The Fulani and Boko Haram are the hammers and the Christians are the nails.

    Since I told you about this campaign of extermination last summer, the violence against Christians has continued unabated. Since February alone nearly 300 Christians have been killed and thousands more displaced.

    Yet, the mainstream media here in the States remains mum. As tempting as it is to speculate why we aren’t hearing about it, that won’t do our Nigerian brethren a bit of good. It won’t put pressure on the Nigerian government to do its basic duty and protect all of its citizens.

    What will help is becoming knowledgeable about what is happening to Christians in Nigeria and around the word. We are living in a new age of religious persecution and even martyrdom. This kind of intentional and thoughtful engagement—along with, of course, our most important efforts of consistent and concerted prayer—is our brethren’s best chance at relief. It’s a task we all must embrace.